One of my favorite features of any Brother machine I’ve owned (there have been and are, ahem, “several”) is the range of accessory feet included with the machine. That’s right: you don’t even have to make a separate purchase to start enjoying the benefits of specialty feet that make sewing, embroidery, and decorative stitching easier and more precise.
Brother quilting machines like the VQ2400 I’m using today come with three different feet designed just for free-motion stitching. Each one is unique and ideally suited for a particular subset of free-motion work. All three are wonderful companions to The Dream Fabric Frame.
Do we need a presser foot for free-motion work? Usually the foot’s job is to hold the fabric against the feed dogs, but even with the feed dogs lowered it’s still useful to have a foot to press the fabric against the machine bed as stitches are formed. If you’ve ever tried to stick a drinking straw through the lid of a full cup of soda, you know that the straw presses the entire lid downward as it passes through. I’ve spilled plenty of liquid that way!
Similarly, a needle presses the fabric down and then drags it back upward as the needle’s cycle repeats. The presser foot helps counteract this bounce for fewer skipped stitches as you dance the free-motion mambo across your project.
You may also find that adjusting the Free Motion Foot Height improves stitching quality. This adjustment is found in the settings of many Brother sewing machines. Do a little experimenting with the project you’re working on to determine which height setting produces minimum bounce without causing drag.
Freedom with the Open Toe
If I were choosing just one presser foot for free-motion work, it would be the Free Motion Open Toe Quilting Foot (Foot O; XF4873-001 [SA187 Free Motion Open Toe Foot]). This is the most versatile of the three quilting feet that came with my Brother machine. It’s shaped like three sides of a rectangle, with its arms extending around the needle on both sides.
I prefer this foot because the open side yields great visibility. I can usually see where I’m going and where I’ve been when using the open-toe foot.
Another fun technique made possible by the open-toe foot is free-motion stitching with a zigzag stitch. Because the foot is wide, it accommodates the needle swings of zigzag and decorative stitching. Without the feed dogs, these wide stitches lose their precision and become a unique sketching tool.
Steady Motion for Delicate Work
Free Motion Quilting Foot C (XF4737-001) resembles a tiny ring. It’s designed to be used with the straight-stitch throat plate – the one with a narrow opening for the needle – in situations where greater stitch-placement control is desired. Always remember that Foot C can only be used with a straight stitch, and double check your machine settings before you begin to sew.
I like this foot for stitching on a single fabric layer rather than on a thick quilt sandwich. For example, if you want to stitch all over a length of sheer fabric to create an embroidered textile for a scarf, the C foot will keep the fabric in touch with the machine right next to the needle, while the throat plate keeps the needle from pushing the fabric into the bobbin area.
Do It Again with Echo Quilting
Foot E, the Free Motion Echo Quilting Foot (XE0766-001), is designed specifically to help you stitch parallel lines of quilting that echo the shape of a patch or appliqué. The quilting resembles the ripples in a pond when a stone is tossed into the water; the foot looks like a plastic saucer.
Looking closely at the foot, you’ll see two circles embossed around the opening for the needle. One is 1/4″ from the needle when you use a straight stitch; the other, 3/8″ away. Use these to guide your stitching along a pre-existing seam or the edge of an appliqué shape. Because the foot and markings are circular, you’ll have a measured reference mark around the needle no matter which direction you’re sewing.You’ve been sewing 1/4″ from the pink heart. When the circle on the foot touches the tip of the green leaf, you know it’s time to change direction with your echo quilting.
Of course there are other accessory feet, too. One that I’m looking forward to using with my VQ2400 and The Dream Fabric Frame is the Couching Foot (SA199V). I’ve bought supplies already and have a project in mind. Meanwhile you can be sure I’m having lots of fun with my Brother machines…but if the Boss asks, I’m definitely working.